Friday's Bellator 301 card is loaded with consequential fights. Sitting atop the card, which takes place at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, are a pair of clashes for Bellator gold.
The main event features welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov (27-0) defending his title against top contender Jason Jackson (16-4). Amosov won the belt in June 2021 with a decision win over Douglas Lima but was out of action until February of this year due to the ongoing Russian invasion of his native Ukraine. Upon his return, Amosov dominated interim champion Logan Storley, taking a unanimous decision with all three judges seeing the fight 50-45 in his favor.
"For me, it doesn't matter. I want to fight everyone so being 27-0 is of course great but I just want to fight," Amosov said at the final press conference this week. "If you are a fighter, you must win every fight. When I go to the cage, I want to win.
"I am number one. I know Jason Jackson thinks he is number one. If you are a fighter, you must believe you are the best."
After dropping a split decision to Ed Ruth in July 2018, Jackson has rattled off six consecutive victories to secure a shot at the title. Jackson has collected wins over some big names on his march to the title, including Benson henderson, Neiman Gracie, Paul Daley and Douglas Lima. He has, however, not fought since July 2022.
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In 16 combined fights in the Bellator cage, Amosov and Jackson have gone to the scorecards 13 times, so gamblers looking for a play may want to keep an eye on where the line for the fight going the distance lands.
"If I say Amosov is the best, it is going to motivate me to go out there and beat the best," Jackson said. "He is 27-0 so I can't be too arrogant. But if I go in there and beat him, I truly become the best."
The co-main event may be the bigger of the two championship bouts on the card as bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis takes on interim champion and winner of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix, Patchy Mix.
Pettis won the world title with a decision win over Juan Archuleta in May 2021 before facing former champion Kyoji Horiguchi that December. Horiguchi was the favorite and was clearly winning the fight when Pettis scored a knockout with a spinning backfist late in the fourth round. The wins kept escalating in impressiveness for Pettis as he again was an underdog in a title defense, this time defending against Bellator great and current featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull, who was hunting for a Bellator title in a third weight class. Pettis dominated the fight and took a wide unanimous decision.
A clash between Mix and Pettis may have happened earlier had an injury not forced Pettis to withdraw from the Grand Prix before it began. Instead, Mix took a decision over Horiguchi in the quarterfinals, submitted Magomed Magomedov with a triangle choke in the semifinals and scored a shocking first-round knockout of Raufeon Stots in the finals to win the interim belt and the $1 million grand prize.
Yet again, Pettis heads into a title defense as the underdog, sitting at +165 as oddsmakers favor Mix's momentum and quickly evolving game.
"We're going to have to see. You guys have seen this past year, Mix has been submitting and knocking people out. You guys are in for a treat Friday night. This is my toughest test to date," Pettis said at the final press conference. "I bring a lot of different looks each time. You guys see that I get better and better every time I go out there. I am a hungry individual and a hungry martial artist and this matchup will bring the best Sergio Pettis you've seen."
This is Mix's second shot at a Bellator world title, having fallen short against Juan Archuleta in September 2020 when he fatigued badly after a strong first round.
"After the past three performances, I go back and always evolve and add new things to my game. I am more confident now than ever. Ever since I knocked out Stots in April, I have just been in the gym nonstop training," Mix said. "Knowing I was going to fight either Sergio or Patricio kept me extremely motivated so now that I have this in front of me, I am ready. This is a big name with a big opportunity, so I am only concerned for this fight. As far as I am concerned, I am 0-0 and after Friday I will be 1-0."
The undercard is one of the deepest of the year for the promotion with many top fighters in action. Raufeon Stots and Danny Sabatello run back their battle from December 2022 when they meet at bantamweight. The two threw down in the semifinals of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix and engaged in an epic war of words in the build to their meeting. The fight, however, did not lead up to the hype as Sabatello tried to outwrestle and grapple Stots while the then interim champion scored from his defensive positions. Plus, former featherweight champion AJ McKee is back for his second bout at lightweight when he takes on Sidney Outlaw. And the Lightweight World Grand Prix rolls on in the opener when Alexandr Shabliy takes on Patricky Pitbull in the semifinals of the eight-man tournament.
Let's take a closer look at the odds for the card before getting to predictions and picks on the pair of title bouts below.
Bellator 301 fight card, odds
|Yaroslav Amosov (c) -450
|Jason Jackson +340
|Patchy Mix (ic) -200
|Sergio Pettis (c) +165
|Danny Sabatello -130
|Raufeon Stots +110
|AJ McKee -300
|Sidney Outlaw +240
|Alexandr Shabliy -500
|Patricky Pitbull +360
|Lightweight Grand Prix
Yaroslav Amosov vs. Jason Jackson: Jackson is on an undeniably impressive run and has added wins over some big names to his resume in recent years. Still, Amosov is one of the most elite fighters on the current Bellator roster, with an impressive ability to completely shut down an opponent's game. That should be the case on Friday night against Jackson, where Amosov is an understandably big favorite. Pick: Yaroslav Amosov via UD
Sergio Pettis vs. Patchy Mix: It's interesting to see Pettis as an underdog once again, especially after completely dominating the Bellator G.O.A.T. in Patricio Pitbull. Mix looked fantastic running through the Grand Prix, though, and cracking Stots with a knee the way he did in the finals was quite an eye-catching moment. Still, Pettis has learned to thrive in these moments and should be feeling confident against a dangerous opponent. Mix seems to have figured out the cardio issues that cost him in his fight with Archuleta. This is a tough fight to call but we're rolling with the man on the way up. Pick: Patchy Mix via submission, Round 3